- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
- More than 3,500 police planned for Boston Marathon
- Ottawa day care suspends 2-year-old for ‘outside’ cheese sandwich
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to ‘man up’ in horse carriage fight
- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
Obama: ‘New beginning’ with Muslims
CAIRO | Seeking no less than a restart of relations with the Islamic world, President Obama on Thursday conceded past wrongs, quoted from the Koran and even invoked his full name - all in an appeal to Muslims from Indonesia to Morocco to unite around common ideals of rights, freedom, security and respect.
In calling for a “new beginning,” he singled out some Islamic nations as examples of religious tolerance, he delivered a stern lecture to Holocaust deniers, doubters of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Palestinian terrorists, and he harked back to the glory of Islamic civilizations through the centuries.
Using his 55-minute speech - the longest of his young presidency - to about 2,500 people at Cairo University, Mr. Obama said that rather than a fundamental disagreement, the U.S. has always held deep respect for and good will toward Islam, dating back to one of the nation’s earliest documents, the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli.
“We have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world; we seek a world where extremists no longer threaten our people and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected,” Mr. Obama said.
The speech, which made good on a campaign promise to deliver a major address from a Muslim country, was translated into 13 languages and spread via e-mail and Web video around the globe - an effort to turn technology, which has been a powerful recruiting tool for radical Islamic terrorists, to a tool of outreach and influence for the U.S.
The president weighed in on tough issues that divide the Middle East, saying the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy” of Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory and all but accusing Palestinians of cowardice when terrorists “shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.”
He also balanced acknowledgment of the U.S. role in the 1953 coup that toppled Iran’s democratically elected government with a call for Iran to forgo developing nuclear weapons, saying pursuing atomic arms could spark “a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”
Mr. Obama also avoided some thorny subjects. He did not use the word “terrorist,” and he did not take on the human rights record of his host country, Egypt. He never mentioned Osama bin Laden, though he did mention al Qaeda three times, saying in no uncertain terms that the terrorist organization was responsible for killing nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.
“These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with,” Mr. Obama said.
He warned that allowing differences to define relations between Muslims and the United States gives ammunition to a small but potent minority of violent extremists.
Radical Palestinian groups called the speech an attempt to “mislead” the world. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the president needs to go beyond “talking, speech and slogans.” Israel’s new government generally praised the sentiments but was silent on Mr. Obama’s call for action to halt settlements.
In the U.S., Republicans and Democrats said Mr. Obama’s speech was thoughtful, though some Republicans worried that Mr. Obama was making a mistake by equating calls for action between Israel and Palestinians.
As the Obama administration had hoped, reaction to the speech poured in from around the world on blogs and social networking Internet sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and through mobile phone text messages.
“President Obama said what I want to hear. I had tears in my eyes, because his words touched my soul. I believed every words he said and I am sure he is sincere, but we wants action not words. We want to feel that America is friend to us not against us. We want to be treated fairly by you. Thanks,” read a text from Saudi Arabia, one of both positive and negative text-message reactions posted on the Web by the U.S. State Department.
Michael Kagan, a law professor at the American University in Cairo, wrote on his personal blog Thursday that the speech showed “a way of engaging with the Arab/Muslim world without being an apologist.”
About the Author
Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Unanimous Senate passes bill on military sex assault to give victims more say in prosecution
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again